Newsletter - 19th December 2015
1939: the discoveries keep on coming MILLIONS OF NEW RECORDS ADDED!
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 11th December) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, for a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a list of articles from 2012-14 click here. Or do what I do, and use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
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We're approaching the end of a momentous year so I wanted to start this newsletter by reminding you of some of the key events in the world of genealogy during the last 12 months.
The pace of change is certainly increasing, and whilst change isn't always welcome - see below - it is inevitable. Unfortunately it's only by embracing the possibility of change that we get an opportunity to shape it....
In the last newsletter I reported on Ancestry's decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker - a momentous decision given the way in which this tree program links to Ancestry, and one that caused a certain amount of consternation amongst users (although the fact that they will continue to support existing users for at least a year helped to soften the blow, and means that nobody needs to be panicked into making decisions that they might later regret).
Now Ancestry have decided to cleanse their Augean stables by ditching their old site, which many subscribers had continued to favour over the new one. There was virtually no warning: it was announced on the Ancestry blog on 14th December, and became effective the following day - so it's hardly surprising that it sparked vociferous protests and some venomous comments.
My personal experience of the new site has been generally positive - I've felt that the search results have been more relevant than before, although I didn't attempt to compare the sites systematically. However I appreciate that there are many who feel differently - in 4 days more than 500 comments were posted on the blog, very few of them supportive.
Whilst I explained back in August how to switch back to the old site, at the same time I suggested that anyone doing so provide feedback and offer suggestions (for many years I ran a software development and publishing company, so I know how important input from users can be). Ancestry might well consider that subscribers who didn't try out the new site during the changeover phase, or switched back to the old one without providing any constructive criticism, had abdicated their role in the decision process.
Yesterday afternoon representatives of family history societies met at the General Register Office in Southport (I'd love to know what was said); on Monday afternoon there will a similar meeting in London at which Else Churchill from the Society of Genealogists and representatives of family history societies in the south of England will be present.
On Monday morning I will be meeting the GRO with representatives of a number of firms from the world of genealogy (mostly probate researchers, judging from the list of attendees). If I'm allowed to, I'll report on the outcome in my next newsletter, but it's important to bear in mind that we're not likely to see be able to access BMD records online for at least a couple of years - government departments have less flexibility than commercial organisations like Ancestry and Findmypast.
The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) is holding a one-day conference in Cambridge on 17th September 2016 entitled "Demolishing Brick Walls"; there's also a formal dinner at St John's College the evening before (the after-dinner speaker will be Sarah Williams, editor of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine and a good friend of LostCousins).
The first two speakers to be confirmed were Professor Rebecca Probert and Debbie Kennett, both of whom spoke at Genealogy in the Sunshine this year, but the full program and booking details are available here.
Free UK Genealogy - the charity formerly known as FreeBMD - will be holding a half-day conference on the afternoon of Saturday 30th January. All transcribers for FreeBMD, FreeREG, and FreeCEN have been invited, though most will be attending online, rather than in person - I will be there as a member of the press.
According to the invitation I received:
"The main reason to hold this conference is to begin a consultation process with our volunteer transcribers, past and present. We are inviting comments on a proposed Transcriber's Agreement. The agreements will secure the future of your transcriptions as resources free to access and use by all, forever, by making them open data. Open data is data that people are free to use, re-use and redistribute - without any legal, technological or social restriction - subject, at most, to measures that preserve provenance and openness. On 30th January we will also be launching a consultation on the wording of the agreement, and also on the way we will make the change to being an open data organisation."
FreeBMD volunteers have transcribed just over 250 million BMD index entries since the project began in the late 1990s - it's an amazing project, and whilst these days we expect to find indexed transcriptions of the GRO indexes at the major subscription sites that hasn't always been the case.
It's not often that records that were thought to be lost resurface, so this good news story from Kent could be an early Christmas present for some of you! It came to me from Linda Elliott (a volunteer at Sandwich Guildhall Archives) via Judy, a LostCousins member in New Zealand:
"Recently re-discovered two parish registers which should have been surrendered to the archives under the 1978 act, but somehow everyone forgot they existed. They are from a chapel here in Sandwich attached to almshouses. I was asked to look in a chest they had there and document what was in there...... carol service sheets from the 1990's, altar cloths, various prayer books donated to the chapel by Victorian town worthies and - almost at the bottom - a baptism register and a burial register dating from 1805. Sandwich Guildhall Archives will be scanning them next week to add to our collection and then they will be deposited in the Diocesan Record Office in the Close of Canterbury Cathedral."
At this stage it isn't clear whether the rediscovered registers from St Bartholomew's Chapel will be added to the Canterbury Collection at Findmypast - but let's hope that they will.
I'm 'Enery the Eighth, I am
My grandmother used to sing this music hall song when I was young, and apparently so did Peter Noone's grandfather. Peter Noone is better known as the lead singer of Herman's Hermits (though when the band was formed he'd already had one career in the limelight as a child actor in Coronation Street).
At one time in the mid-60s Herman's Hermits were as popular in the US as the Beatles - and on 7th August 1965 their version of the old-time song went to No.1 in the Billboard chart, knocking the Rolling Stones (and 'Satisfaction') off the top.
I was reminded of the song when I read an email from Zoe, who was prompted to write by my article about The Three Johns:
"William Harris, a pork sausage maker from Holborn and his wife Betsy Harris were quite clearly stuck for names after the birth of son William in c1876 and when their 2nd son was born in c1878 he was blessed with the name William Numbertwo. The two Williams were followed by a younger brother c1879: William Numberthree.
"Fortunately the next child to bless the Harris family was a girl c1880 who was named after her mother, Betsy. And then another girl c1882 was named Betsy Numbertwo followed in c1884 by Betsy Numberthree and finally c1887 came Betsy Numberfour.
"The family lived in St John Street St Sepulchre, which is part of the Smithfield area of Holborn - famous for its meat markets, and there are two further births I found in the BMD indexes. One in Holborn in 1897 for William Number F Harris, and one in 1900 for William Number F Harris again. They appear in baptism records being christened William Number Four Harris and William Number Five Harris. Their father? William Number One Harris, Sausage maker, obviously keen to carry on the family tradition of both occupation and naming patterns."
© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and Findmypast
The extract from the 1891 Census above shows just how strange this family was: William put himself first, his manageress second (though he doesn't seem to want to divulge her forename, or perhaps didn't know it); then come his sons - William Numberone, William Numbertwo and William Numberthree. Only then does he record his wife Betsy, followed their daughters Betsy Numberone, Betsy Numbertwo, Betsy Numberthree, and Betsy Numberfour.
As Americans sometimes say, "Heavens to Betsy!".
The Masterclass in the last issue set out the main strategies that I use - and you can also utilise - in order to identify relatives who were born in England & Wales after 1911. Because it's often possible to identify living relatives who are not actively researching their family history it opens up opportunities that might not arise during normal research.
I thought it might be helpful to demonstrate the techniques in practice using an example from my own family tree: in this case I'm particular keen to track down living descendants because the baptism of my great-great-great grandmother Elisabeth Goode is missing - at least, it's not in the baptism register of St Innocent's, Great Barton, which is where she said she was born in 1851 and 1861. Whilst I've deduced who her parents probably were - and there's a convenient 4 year gap in the baptisms that have been recorded for the couple which supports my theory - DNA testing seems the best chance of eventually proving it, so I need to track down at least one of the descendants of the other children.
Appropriately it's the Wright family that will ultimately determine whether I'm right, and on the 1911 Census Frederick Herbert Wright and his wife Mary Rose had just one child, 6 year-old James Frederick Charles Wright. Three forenames is good news when you're looking for events after 1911 because until 1966 only one forename is shown in full, so it can be tough to find the right person when all you've got to go on is one forename and one initial.
I soon discovered his marriage - I searched between 1923-43, and as you can see, there is only one person with the right initials amongst the 373 results, and he's at the top of the list:
This tells us that he married in the Epsom registration district to a lady with the surname Down - clearly one of the Epsom Downs (not one of my best jokes, but probably better than anything you'll find in a Christmas cracker)!
The next step is to look for births to a couple with the surname Wright where the mother's maiden name is Down. Once again I searched over a 21-year period, this time 10 years on either side of 1940:
When you're looking at a list of births which may or may not relate to the same couple it's useful to re-sort them in order of birth year (being able to re-sort Search results is one of my favourite Findmypast features):
Looking at the names, the dates, and the places it's quite feasible that all of these boys were born to James and his wife, but there's an easy way to eliminate much of the guesswork (and this tip is definitely one to 'Wright Down' for future reference). Just search for marriages again, but this time looking for ALL marriages between a man named Wright and a woman named Down - because if any of those births doesn't belong to my Wright family, it must belong to another couple with the same surnames.
I searched for marriages in the 20 years up to 1943, the date of the latest birth. We can immediately eliminate over half of the results because they involve a woman called Wright and a man named Down (the opposite of what we're looking for); of the remaining 3 marriages we can probably ignore the one in Durham, because it's 300 miles away - which leaves just 2, the one we're interested in and that of Frederick E Wright in Fulham registration district in 1941.
Clearly Frederick can't have been the father of the Wright boys who were born between 1933-37, but it's very likely that he's the father of David, whose birth was registered in Fulham in 1943. Similarly I can now be pretty confident that John, Roger, Brian, and Alan are all the sons of James Frederick Charles Wright - because there's no other couple whose sons they could be (I'm ignoring the faint possibility of a couple marrying in a different country then moving to Surrey).
Whilst my next step is to follow up with the marriages and children of James' four sons I'm not going to do it in print because it involves living people - but hopefully I've demonstrated sufficient that you will be apply to apply the same techniques to your own tree.
From tips about re-sorts to tips about resorts - in the next article I'm going to tell you about the cliff-top village in Portugal where we've gathered for the past two years for the genealogy course with a difference.
The beautiful Rocha Brava resort on the Algarve was the venue for Genealogy in the Sunshine in March 2014 and 2015 - and I hope we'll be back there in 2017. But it's a lovely place to go for a relaxing holiday at any time - that's why my wife and I bought a quarter-share in an apartment at Rocha Brava in 2008, and why I volunteered to join the committee that represents the 600 owners a few years ago.
As I've brought so many LostCousins members out to Rocha Brava over the past two years I've been able to negotiate an exclusive discount - stay at Rocha Brava at any time during 2016, and you'll get a 5% discount on their already competitive rates. To secure your discount ensure you book direct with the resort, by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org† and quote the code LOSTCOUSINS at the time of booking. Even better, for bookings in April and June your discount will be doubled to 10%.
Find out more about the resort, the facilities, and the prices at the Rocha Brava website; the rates currently reflect an early booking discount for the period April to October, so book now and you'll save even more! If you do decide to take a holiday at my favourite resort, let me know, and if I happen to be out there at the same time I'll drop by with a bottle of chilled sparkling wine.
New Scientist yesterday reported a study based on DNA testing and 45 years of observation which enabled the researchers to draw 6 generation family trees for a group of polar bears in the Western Hudson's Bay area.
There were 4449 bears in the survey: the most surprising discovery was of identical twins, the first reported occurrence in polar bears, whose twins are usually non-identical. There were 6 cases of adoption - in 4 of those cases the mother seems to have lost her own litter, but in the other 2 cases the adopted cubs joined existing litters, and the researchers surmise that polar bears might not be able to count!
There was only one clear example of incest, which was between two half-siblings - this was probably inadvertent as studies in other bear species suggest that they arenít very good at identifying their kin. All in all, the bears appear to have been more civilised than many human families....
1939: the discoveries keep on coming MILLIONS OF NEW RECORDS ADDED!
I'm still getting emails from members about discoveries they've made in the 1939 Register, or - and this is increasingly common - by following up clues that they found there.
Graham didn't know what had happened to his grandfather, so finding him living with another woman in 1939 was a great clue. This led him to discover their marriage in 1942 - and enabled him to confirm that a death certificate he bought some years ago, but assumed was for someone unrelated, was in fact that of his grandfather. Why had he thought it was the wrong one? Because the occupation was wrong, and he didn't recognise the name of the informant, described as the son of the deceased.
Now he knows that there was at least one child born to the marriage - the uncle who he previously knew nothing about. Researching further he discovered that his grandfather had been cited as co-respondent in a divorce case as long ago as 1926, so there could well be other uncles and aunts. As Graham says, it's no wonder that there were no photographs of his grandparents in the house when he was growing up.
I've got a similar story in my own tree - in 1939 my father's cousin was living with a man who wasn't her husband, and going by his surname. No wonder I haven't been able to track down her children: they were born after 1939, but as I had found them in the GRO birth indexes under her first husband's surname I had naturally assumed they were his children (so that's how they were shown on my tree).
Only when I was writing this article did it cross my mind to check whether the births had also been indexed under the name of the second husband - they had! Clearly he must have been shown as the father on the birth certificate - and had it not been for the 1939 Register I might never have realised, since my cousin didn't remarry until after both children were born.
But it doesn't end there - I've now discovered that there were two more children born after they married in 1947. As all four of the children are old enough to have children and grandchildren of their own, there could well be a dozen or more living cousins of mine just waiting to be found!
Of course, not everyone is as delighted with the 1939 Register - in fact, one reader wrote into Who Do You Think You Are? magazine suggesting that it might have been better if the release of the 1939 Register had waited until 2039, when all the records will be open! I don't know how seriously it was meant, but since nearly half of the people reading this newsletter are unlikely to be around in 2039, it seems a pretty mean thing to say.
She argued that the 1921 Census will be much more useful when it arrives in 2022. Well, maybe it will - though it won't have as much information as the 1911 Census - but since not one of the discoveries I've personally made in the 1939 Register could possibly have been made using the 1921 Census I don't see it as a substitute. What about you?
UPDATE: around 3 million records have been added since the launch last month, including that of my late mother, who had been evacuated to Ipswich. It's worth having another look to see who you can find - and if you use one of the links below you can save 20% on your first household.
My local library, like many others, offers free online access to over 150 magazines through a service called Zinio. You can read the magazines in the library or at home, and there's a free app that you can use to read offline (although I haven't tried the app yet).
Another handy resource offered by Essex Libraries - and many others - is the Times Digital Archive 1785-2008 (I use this quite a lot for fact checking - after all, you can't believe what you read on the Internet!).
If I go into the library I can access both Ancestry and Findmypast - again, totally free; it's certainly not as convenient as having access at home, but if you can only afford one subscription it's worth checking out which site(s) your library subscribes to. There's lots, lots more that I haven't mentioned, so why not check out your local library - you might be surprised at what's on offer, and how much can be accessed from the comfort of your own home!
In the last issue I wrote about a 1930s letter than had been found in a chimney - and, just as that edition went to press, news came in of a second letter, this time from the 1940s. You can read about it here, on the BBC website. Have you ever made a similar discovery?
Over the years I've cooked many Christmas dinners, so I'm going to start this festive tips column with some suggestions based on my own experience:
If you fancy something different this year, check out this blog posting from the Essex Record Office about Mince pies through the ages.
I'm sure I don't need to remind you to that most battery-powered devices don't come with batteries, but have you thought about providing rechargeable batteries? They're a little more expensive to buy, but can save a fortune over the life of the device - and you can now buy them pre-charged, so that they are ready to be used immediately. My wife and I have found that Amazon own-brand batteries are very reliable - we use them in all sorts of devices: fitness equipment, torches, clocks - even our blood pressure monitor.
Christmas is a great time to share memories with family and old friends - but why not use a camcorder, or an app on your smartphone so that you can keep a permanent record? Also, if you're planning to make international phone calls at Christmas - or any other time - open an account with 18185, whose service I've been using for about a decade. There's no up-front cost or subscription - simply use it when you want to. With 18185 it costs me less to phone Australia than to call my next door neighbour using BT - that's how cheap it is!
If you're buying a new mobile phone, whether for yourself or someone else, make sure that it's unlocked (often referred to as SIM-free). It's a false economy to buy a phone that's locked to a particular network, especially since many networks don't allow tethering, or charge extra.
What's tethering? Simply the most wonderful invention of the past decade - it allows you to use your mobile as a WiFi hotspot so that you can access the Internet using other devices (and so can anyone else, if you give them the password). GiffGaff is my network of choice, since tethering is allowed in almost all cases - and, because there's absolutely no commitment you can choose if and when you buy a Goody Bag (they last for 30 days and start at just £5). Even better, calls between GiffGaff users in the UK are free, even if you don't have a current Goody Bag. Follow this link to order a free SIM and we'll both get £5 extra credit when you activate it.
Finally, a reminder about this year's Christmas Competition, which started last weekend and continues until Twelfth Night (you'll find full details here). The great thing about this particular competition is that to enter you need only search for your cousins - which is, after all, why you joined LostCousins in the first place!
And what better time to find new cousins than Christmas?
Millions of new records have been added to the 1939 Register - see the article above.
I'd like to offer my best wishes to you and your extended family for the festive period, and thank you for your support and encouragement over the past year.
© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver
Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite them to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?